Realtors know the smell of baking is so enticing that it can help them sell a house. And nothing beats the rich taste and mouth feel of fresh-baked bread, either.
But making bread takes too long, you say. Not necessarily. True, it does require “proofing” the yeast until it bubbles, letting the dough rise (usually twice) — not to mention the work of kneading. A couple of years ago, however, I discovered a recipe for something called “batter bread.” Although batter bread avoids many of the most time-consuming steps, it is still made with yeast and thus retains the wonderful aroma, fully developed flavor and satisfying texture you expect in a really good bread.
For this bread, based on a recipe from Myrtle Allen’s Cooking in Ballymaloe House, you combine the proofed yeast and the flour in a bowl, stirring until they form a soft dough, then turn this dough into a loaf baking pan and let it rise once. This rise generally takes about 15 minutes. (As a living organism, yeast is not entirely predictable, so the rising time might be as long as 20 minutes, or as brief as ten minutes if your kitchen is particularly warm.)
This hearty loaf is made almost entirely with whole-wheat flour. The best choice is stone-ground bread flour, which many supermarkets carry. Made from hard spring wheat, this flour includes the nutrient-rich germ of the whole grain and fiber-rich bran that are polished away in white flours. It is also higher in protein than all-purpose white flour.
Flour with high protein content makes better bread because it has more gluten, the particular protein that helps a loaf rise. Kneading, which activate this gluten, transforms the dough from a tight ball to a smooth, elastic mass. In this recipe, stirring vigorously does the job of kneading, and more quickly, too.
Walnuts and herbs complement the bold, whole-grain taste of this bread. Serve thick slices with cream of tomato or chunky vegetable soups. I also like it toasted and topped, still warm, with low-fat cottage cheese.
Whole-Wheat Bread with Herbs
Makes one 9-inch loaf, approx. 14 slices.
- Canola oil spray
- 3 1/2 cup whole wheat flour, preferably stone-ground
- 1/2 cup unbleached bread flour
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1 Tbsp. unsulphured molasses
- 2 cup lukewarm water (100-115 º F.)
- 2 packages dry active yeast
- 3/4 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
- 1 Tbsp. dried basil
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- 2 tsp. dried thyme
Lightly spray 9 x 5x 3 inch bread pan. Set pan aside. Set a rack in the center of oven.
In large bowl, combine whole wheat and bread flour with salt. Set bowl in warm oven – if a gas stove, use only the warmth of the pilot light. If an electric oven, use lowest possible setting to warm the flour and bowl.
In small bowl, mix molasses into 1/2 cup of the water. Sprinkle yeast over liquid. Set aside until yeast is dissolved and foamy, about 10 minutes.
Remove warmed bowl of flour from oven. Preheat oven to 450 º F.
Stir in walnuts, basil, oregano, and thyme into warm flour. Pour yeast mixture and remaining 1 1/2 cups water into flour. Using wooden spoon, mix until sticky dough forms. Mixture will seem dry at first, but gets wetter as you stir. It will partially pull away from sides of bowl but remain sticky and too soft to knead. Turn dough into prepared pan. Cover pan with a dish towel. Set it in a warm, draft-free place until dough doubles in volume, 10-15 minutes, and is slightly below edge of pan.
Bake 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 425 º F. Bake 20 minutes, until loaf sounds hollow when tapped in center of the top and bottom. Crust will be dark brown and hard. If the loaf is very dark but still moist in center, turn off oven. Remove bread from pan, and let it sit in oven for 5 minutes. Cool bread on a rack. Cool it completely before slicing.
Per serving: 119 calories, <1 g. total fat (<1 g. saturated fat), 26 g. carbohydrate, 5 g. protein, 4 g. dietary fiber, 334 mg. sodium.
“Something Different” is written for the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) by Dana Jacobi, author of The Joy of Soy and recipe creator for AICR’s Stopping Cancer Before It Starts.